Improving Access to Cancer Treatment Services in Australia's Northern Territory-History and Progress

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Abstract

Cancer is the leading cause of death in the Northern Territory (NT), Australia's most sparsely populated jurisdiction with the highest proportion of Aboriginal people. Providing cancer care to the NT's diverse population has significant challenges, particularly related to large distances, limited resources and cultural differences. This paper describes the developments to improve cancer treatment services, screening and end-of-life care in the NT over the past two decades, with a particular focus on what this means for the NT's Indigenous peoples. This overview of NT cancer services was collated from peer-reviewed literature, government reports, cabinet papers and personal communication with health service providers. The establishment of the Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre (AWCCC), which provides radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other specialist cancer services at Royal Darwin Hospital, and recent investment in a PET Scanner have reduced patients' need to travel interstate for cancer diagnosis and treatment. The new chemotherapy day units at Alice Springs Hospital and Katherine Hospital and the rapid expansion of tele-oncology have also reduced patient travel within the NT. Access to palliative care facilities has also improved, with end-of-life care now available in Darwin, Alice Springs and Katherine. However, future efforts in the NT should focus on increasing and improving travel assistance and support and increasing the availability of appropriate accommodation; ongoing implementation of strategies to improve recruitment and retention of health professionals working in cancer care, particularly Indigenous health professionals; and expanding the use of telehealth as a means of delivering cancer care and treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7705
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
Issue number13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2022

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